Extraordinary Concentration Camp children’s opera Brundibár at Southbank Centre’s Imagine Children’s Festival as part of UK tour
Mahogany Opera Group comes to the Southbank Centre’s Imagine Children’s Festival (9 – 22 February) this February with its brand new production of Hans Krása’s Brundibár, a 1938 short children’s opera famously performed in World War II concentration camp Thereseinstadt.
Brundibár combines playful folk song with a powerful moral message about overcoming adversity. Aninka and Pepíček are too poor to buy milk for their ailing mother, but when they try to busk for money in the square the evil organ-grinder Brundibár chases them away. With the help of a fearless sparrow, keen cat, wise dog and the town children, the courageous siblings hatch a midnight plan, eventually defeating Brundibár – and leading everyone in a joyfully triumphant musical finale.
The Southbank Centre performances are part of a UK tour; from February 2015 a team comprising professional musicians, director, conductor and production staff takes Brundibár to a series of prestigious British venues and festivals including the Watford Palace Theatre and Young Norfolk Arts Festival. The skilled Mahogany Opera Group professionals will work with schools and county music education hubs to involve up to fifty local children in every location. Each group of participants will perform the opera after an intensive rehearsal period, giving them a rare creative opportunity - and bringing audiences a production of an exceptionally high standard.
Young performers for the Imagine Children’s Festival dates come from the Pembroke Academy of Music, an open access community music programme in Walworth which provides high quality subsidised music tuition to underprivileged children. Brundibár is the first major staged performance they have taken part in.
The short opera has become an increasingly popular work for children in recent years, despite its tragic wartime history. Jewish-Czech Krása was a prisoner in Theresienstadt, and adapted the work in 1943 for children interred alongside him. It received 55 performances in a year as part of the Nazi propaganda machine, before Krása and members of the cast and orchestra were transported to Auschwitz. The opera remains a testimony to the bravery and resilience of those performers, and adds poignancy to this touching children’s, work both for audiences and the performers whose young wartime counterparts created the roles in such desperate and unlikely conditions.